“Once there were places on the ancient charts that said ‘Here be dragons,’ to warn travellers of treacherous, unknown waters. Well, young pupil, that empty space you seem fixated upon within the readout of your auspex display? There be dragons.”
–Senior Adept-Pilot Tabel Rha-sa
There is, floating within the maze of debris, gravitic shears, and rogue singularities that abound within the mid-orbital ranges around the star Sentanim, a mysterious void. This stable grav-point does not appear on any chart or map, it is not in any record or data-remnant, and its location is known only to a select few of the highest-ranking adepts in all of the Mechanicus Calixis. Rumors abound of a secret space station located somewhere within the Lathes System, and the perceived wisdom of the adepts speaks of a dark and mysterious realm where the most powerful creatures of Mechanicus myth and legend walk freely. Many may even have heard a title, mumbled over a cup of joilique or infusions of illegal toxicant scrapcode, over hooded, sidelong glances: Panopticon Orbital Station.
In the 9th century of M38, a mysterious vessel, its red and steel flanks glowing dully in the blue-white light of an unstable sun, entered the Pondus System. The skull-prowed craft began an extensive survey of the region, powerful auspex beams reaching out in all directions, testing, measuring, and cataloguing. Almost immediately, a series of intriguing anomalies presented themselves. Strange gravity shears that defied explanation ripped through the system. The star at its center beat to a cadence unknown to even the most gifted celestial adepts or decryption cogitators. Extraordinary readings emanated from the looping, intertwined asteroid belts. It soon became clear that the system was a rare and exciting specimen, something that the Adeptus Mechanicus would very much like to claim as its own, once the Pax Imperialis reached into the Calyx Expanse. It was also clear, however, that this single ship lacked the ability to perform an exhaustive study, and so all work ceased, the Explorator vessel moved through the system, and entered the Warp on the other side.
Almost a century later, several slightly smaller ships, similar in design and color, arrived. Spreading throughout the system, these ships moved with a quiet purpose. The entire area was scanned and charted, and exhaustive reports were filed on every planet, recorded anomaly, and stellar feature. Remnant colonies of humans, cut off from the Emperor’s light for millennia, were later found on three planets within the system. It was decided that they would serve as an ideal work force, should the Cult Mechanicus lay claim to the system. On Mars and Terra, quiet efforts to do just that began, while the specialized Explorator fleet retreated from the planets and entered the dangerous region of intertwining asteroid belts looping through the system. The fleet suffered a great deal of damage as it penetrated into the chaotic region, countless adepts and crewmen losing their lives, but they had come prepared. Deep within the unstable violence of the colliding belts, an ancient artefact was activated, creating a bubble of stable gravity and a quiet sanctuary from the grinding impacts. They started construction within this secure zone, and quickly a bastion began to take shape.
Even as the citadel was being constructed, a fleet of smaller vessels spread throughout the system. A legion of auspex clusters, pictographic scanners, and omnipotentia augury arrays seeded every planet and each of the three asteroid belts. Soon the entire system was under surveillance, every action, every word, every transmission observed, analyzed, and recorded. The initial deployment of the Praecursator Grid and the obsidian stronghold were completed at nearly the same time, making the Cult Mechanicus masters of the system before either the Imperium or the current inhabitants even knew of their presence.
For several centuries, Explorator fleets pushing into the newly discovered region used the station as a clandestine way-stop. During the Angevin Crusade it served as a secret command-and-control node for advanced Mechanicus scouting forces. After the system came under Mechanicus control the Station remained a tightly held secret, only the highest-ranking Arch-Magos aware of its existence. The Fabricator-General himself proffered it to the Lords Dragon, as they accepted the burden of shepherding the newborn Mechanicus Calixis for the Omnissiah, ever-watchful for the taint of tech-heresy. For millennia now it has served several purposes: as the clandestine headquarters of the Lords Dragon, a top-secret weapons research and development base, and a repository for weapons and artefacts deemed so dangerous that the leaders of the Mechanicus Calixis must deny their very existence.
With bones of iron mined from sacred Mars itself and sheathed in the polished obsidian stone of theEtiam Yohd Belt, the Panopticon Orbital Station is the most heavily armored redoubt in the Lathes System. Colossal Harbinger Sentinels crouch upon every available surface like ancient gargoyles, their auspex optics and audit-tracking audiometrics plumbing surrounding space for danger. The station serves as the central nexus of the Praecursator Grid, now expanded across the Lathe Worlds and even into several non-Mechanicum holdings. Vast data storage tombs and processing vertices fill enormous chambers within the Station, ghostly wisps of heat rising into the sepulchral air. Machine-spirits toil ceaselessly to follow faces, words, and deeds, watching for the slightest hint of heretical taint. So sophisticated are the linked data-stacks, in fact, that constant vigilance must be maintained, lest elements of the system stray too close to Abominable Intelligence.
Eyes of the DragonEdit
The Lords Dragon, easily the most feared group within the Mechanicus Calixis, have used the Praecursator Grid to keep a careful watch over all those within the Lathe Worlds for centuries now, wary of the siren-song of corruption that has felled so many adepts. It also assists them in maintaining their many secrets and the illusion of omniscience. Within dark chambers lined with sacred iron, the Lords Dragon regularly rededicate themselves to their holy purpose, standing vigil over several precious artefacts from the ancient eras of Mars’ ascendancy. Vast, cog-shaped altars hold fields of flickering electro-tapers illuminating the enigmatic visage of the Cog Mechanicus glaring down from every wall. Most adepts of the Lords Dragon are quiet and focused upon their own tasks within the dimly lit halls, habits of secrecy too strong to break even within the Panopticon, their most sacred and secure sanctuary.
Countless myths have been spread about the region of the Panopticon as an integral part of the floating citadel’s defenses. Since before the Mechanicus officially came to the system, tales were being told, of a dead region in space where ships disappear without warning or trace. Countless vague accounts passed from crew to crew of space craft that ventured into the conjunction of clashing rocks and passed out the other side, their crew vanished, their data-stacks scoured bare. The most frightening element of these tales is that many of them are true. Whenever a ship comes too close to the Panopticon Station, it leaves the Lords Dragon with little choice. Each ship is either destroyed outright or boarded. The crews of those boarded ships can never be released, and the data-stacks of the ships are completely scrubbed of any incriminating information. Some of those crewmen are allowed to remain aboard the Station and live out their lives serving the Lords Dragon. Most, however, either meet their end as menial servitors on the Station or are rendered non-functioning, their remains recycled.
As the Mechanicus Calixis grew and expanded the Lords Dragon occasionally found themselves in need of assistance from other Mechanicus agencies. The Lords Dragon are a small, elite body, and there have been crises over time that were beyond their ability to contain. The most valuable commodity these agents possess has been trust, and so, over time, other factions and units have been brought into the secret fold of the Panopticon Station. Here the massive, armored forms of the Myrmidons now stalk the halls, caring for the machine-spirits of enormous siege batteries of the Ordo Reductor, waiting with barely restrained power for the next call to battle. Beside these hulking forms stride the legendary mech-assassins. There are even whispered tales that the dreaded Magister Samadhi, enigmatic commander of the Acuitor Set mech-assassins, resides somewhere deep within the Station.
The original blunt shape of the Station has been expanded over time, the Dragon Secutorii and the Ordo Reductor Siege Masters coordinating each addition. Independent research areas, testing facilities, and the hab units for a growing number of adepts and menials constantly increase its impressive size. Enormous blast doors conceal Ordinatus-scale weaponry, and folded skeletal structures of elaborate docking arms and transfer points are kept ready for arriving vessels. High along the Central Bastion, the Cog Mechanicus glares down upon the Station and all who would dare approach it.
The interior of the Station, kept in a constant dim red glow, has grown more and more labyrinthine with each new addition. Down each crimson hallway drift clouds of holy incense, pumped through the station’s atmosphere recyclers at regular intervals. What was once an observation post and staging ground for Lords Dragon forces watching over the Mechanicum is now home to nearly half a dozen different organizations, every one an enigmatic mystery even to each other. The heart of the station has been given over to the Acuitor Set, who have further fortified it into the stronghold of Tumala, guarding the ancient mechanisms that keep the asteroids at bay. A fortress within a fortress, Tumala is almost entirely self-contained, void-moats dividing it from the rest of the Station, and an independently armored hull further securing the artefact and installations within. The darkest heart of the station, Tumala is open only to the mech-assassins and their lords, and a select few of the highest-ranking Lords Dragon Magos.
Long ago, the original Magister Samadhi came to the station for reasons now lost to time. Somehow an agreement was reached with the Lords Dragon, to establish Tumala as a primary training base for his disciples. In the later stages of the Magister’s life he returned to Tumala to personally train his mech-assassin followers, and to meditate in deep binary-datadreams upon the nature of his purpose and that of his Set. Today, each master of the Acuitor Set reviews these ancient meditations as he puts aside his personal name and assumes the identity of Magister Samadhi, donning a stylized iron mask that is never removed. Legends say though that the original Samadhi never died, and, in fact, still wanders the halls of Tumala to this very day.
The Myrmidons of the Ordo Reductor hold the outer districts of the Station, where thick, armored walls encompass vault-like weapon batteries and their control altars, along with the massive energy capacitors needed to power them all. Their huge, augmented forms stand eternal guard over the entrances to the Station, no ship approaching save under their wary eyes. Most Myrmidons communicate through binary chatter link only, having taken a vow of audio-silence upon accepting a position upon the Panopticon. In suits of colossal, ancient armor, these silent warriors are easily the most intimidating denizens of this most daunting place, each of their multiple arms capable of rending trespassers to component flesh. Bearing weapons out of Mechanicus myth and legend, even away from their dreadful batteries the Myrmidons are terrible to behold.